Traditional vs Contemporary Kitchen Cabinet Design

There are two main umbrella terms for the huge sea of styles held in the world of interior design. The first, and most popular, is known as classic or traditional design, and the second is known as modern or contemporary design. Virtually all styles of home decor can be categorized under one of these two groupings, and of course, there is a lot of successful blending happening in homes everywhere. Below we have laid out the most recognizable differences between these two types of home decor and kitchen cabinet design.


Traditional stylings of home decor often draw from historical inspiration, with a very strong connection to Old World and European influences. Color palettes in traditionally styled homes and kitchens tend to favor light, warm color palettes with lots of neutral tones, including natural wood. Much of traditional home decor pays close attention to small details – intricate woodworking and wood paneling, highly stylized hardware, plush upholstery, and small flourishes of tasteful accessories often adorn homes and kitchens that favor the traditional style. Homes with a more rustic feel tend to fall firmly under the banner of traditional design, as do country homes. Furniture, cabinets, and other elements in the home that are distressed, weathered, or otherwise styled in shabby chic mode also fall under the umbrella of traditional styles of kitchen cabinet design.


Contemporary home styles stand in almost direct opposition to the glamor of traditional styles. There is a much more common use of modern, even industrial materials, such as glass, metal, laminate, and lacquered woods. Flourishes and unnecessary details are few and far between, if they are present at all; there is a distinct air of utilitarianism with more modern, contemporary styles for homes and kitchens. Where handles, knobs, and drawer pulls in a traditional home would have ornate, beautifully detailed features, those in a more contemporary setting would be far more simplified, straightforward in their sleek utility. Angular, sharp lines and smooth, sleek flat surfaces dominate in most contemporary styles, especially for storage facilities like a kitchen cabinet. The starkness of contemporary styles is balanced by a brighter, bolder color palette than would usually be found in more traditional color palettes, giving homes with a contemporary or modern style a sense of undeniable taste.

So where does kitchen cabinet design fall on the spectrum of traditional vs. contemporary home decor? Shaker style cabinets can fall under either banner, as can inset and custom cabinets. Flat and louvered style cabinets are more likely to fall into the category of modern or contemporary, particularly if they are made of lacquered wood in darker, sleeker colors. Beadboard cabinets are generally associated with more traditional style decor. This guide is only a rough one, however; depending on the materials, colors, and the interior designer, any style of kitchen cabinet design can easily be adapted to suit either contemporary or traditional styles in any home. The best way forward is to have general leaning towards either traditional or contemporary style, and from there, decisions will be much easier to make.

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